a day for heroic mothers

pexels-photo-225744.jpegHappy Mothers’ Day, 2018!       Whether your momma is alive  or living in your memory,  hug her today!

My own mother passed away seven years ago but I have others to celebrate.  My daughter-in-law is expecting our grandchild in August.  My wife has three now-grown sons – she did all the work as I married into the family when they were pre-teens.     But I have a mother to call today, whom I still refer to as “Ma”.   There’s others whom our family has had as ‘second-moms’.     My elder maternal aunt is someone I would have chosen, if that was a thing,  to be my mom.

When I studied Russian in college and then had a opportunity to visit the country ages ago,  I remember how the old Soviet regime had an award for moms: Мать-героиня    or Mother-Heroine.

pexels-photo-302083.jpegWhether you have one whirlwind of a boy, a  seven brides for seven brothers family, or like my wife,  three men- all radically different, celebrate the day.   Give your mom a hug, a phone call, some flowers, and treat her to brunch.    Love you, Mom!

 

a motto for marriages

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  Philippians 2: 1 – 4

Your spouse did not come in your seabag

Up through the late 1980s,  the military services did not yet offer the kind of training and support that married service members need.   When training was introduced,  the first programs were the ombudsman that informed the unit commanders about the family support systems for the military members in their unit.   Classes through the Family Service Centers in life basics, credit, budgeting, child-rearing, shopping, nutrition, and employment opportunities for the military spouse started a little more than two decades ago.

Is marriage outdated?

For 2017,  the U.S. Government (CDC) issued these statistics for marriage and divorce in the United States:

Number of marriages: 2,245,404
Marriage rate: 6.9 per 1,000 total population
Number of divorces: 827,261 (44 reporting States and D.C.)
Divorce rate: 3.2 per 1,000 population (44 reporting States and D.C.)

One-quarter as many divorces as weddings in 2017!   While divorce statistics have declined a bit, the number of people cohabiting and not getting married may be part of the statistics.  And what factors contribute to divorce?   Without going into the data,  it is probably the same things that people all say – financial difficulties, different goals and attitudes, infidelity,  mental or physical abuse,  health issues, and so on.   People whether gay or straight, and if examined, probably in any other country,  have the same issues.  A lack of common, unifying principles, beliefs, or values that treat each person with  respect and  worth.

The recipe for a failing marriage is actually based on our human nature.  Take two self-interested emotional people and put them legally together.  Remove intimacy,  common goals, and a support network of family and friends.  Add long separations due to the nature of the military job, a culture that is generally foreign to a civilian spouse, and the dangers that any day,  a training accident or hostile action can mean a complete life change for either person in a marriage.

Semper fidelis is not just a Marine motto

Always faithful.  Regardless of someone’s spiritual understanding or lack of one,  there are means to learn how to not merely survive, but thrive as a married couple.  It does take effort and common goals of both persons – daily – to have a successful marriage.  And it is not enough to be a member of the same spiritual, ethnic, or career community either.  It is the commitment to learning, practicing what one learns, treating one another with respect and love and honoring your vows.

Self-paced training

This week, our fellowship in church began a series of lessons from a book by Dr. Gary Smalley,  If Only He Knew, for husbands and for wives, For Better or Best.    The married men began with lessons on checking our tongue, by not spouting off sarcasm about things that irritate us,  and not sharing your “fix it” strategies when your spouse is sharing her frustrations and needs.  These only serve to alienate our children and spouses at home, and those attitudes can also negatively impact your work environment.

A second part of the introductory workshop covered protecting our spouse physically, emotionally, her honor, financially, and with sound principles.  To which were also included our spiritual involvement.  A husband should provide a safe and secure home by regular upkeep or maintenance.  Vehicle maintenance, especially with working spouses is also part of that physical protection.  Emotionally, we should learn to recognize the signs when our spouse is burdened.  Sometimes, husbands can neglect the shared responsibilities for childcare and home.   For most of our spouses who also have careers, this can be overwhelming. It is also a fact that many people suffer chronic depression, so recognizing the symptoms and seeking care for a spouse may be a responsibility of the husband.

Protecting a spouse from negative attitudes or disrespectful comments by other family members is protecting her honor.  Financially,  husbands need to protect our spouses – whether or not they are a two-income family- by setting sound financial goals, spending habits, communication and mutual agreement.  Too many people “fly by the seat of their pants” spending more than their income each month.   And then there are the sins that plague us as men – greed, lust, selfishness, envy, and arrogance or pride that if we men do not actively control – or apologize when something occurs – they can ruin our marriages.

Additional study

The first book  I read on the subject of developing a vibrant marriage was  Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mack which I bought a few months before I got married eighteen years ago.  This was the basis of a class that friends of ours, married then six years, taught us starting while we were engaged and then for  several months into our marriage.   In a future blog post, I will summarize the lessons from this book.

Over nearly two decades, our church has held several “marriage workshops” for members and invited guests.   The principles that the speakers have shared  cover the mistakes that even biblically-centered couples made.  And the successful application of the principles in this article’s biblical quote.  While I know that Christian couples who do not actively work at the principles for a strong marriage can fail,    I am aware of couples married for decades who do not attend church but with the help they got and the lessons they learned from biblical principles and these sorts of helpful books and seminars,  grew closer to each other and to God.

the Prince got the Pauper fired

Universities revel these days in being all about inclusion, “free speech”, minority rights, and “post-modernism”.   And people who have risen up the ranks to lead universities were all educated in this system for the last thirty or so years, so I would expect them to fight against “oppression”, “class”, working-people’s rights and other “ills” of  this society’s so-called anti-intellectualism. (All of which I believe has more to do with those wielding power and manipulation of those not in power -regardless of party or nationality)  I do not happen to like Rap music, but I never would get someone fired over it.   Yet a college senior administrator, at prestigious Duke University did exactly that.    

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deep waters

Anyone who has gone to sea for any length of time – and with a wink to my Coast Guard brothers and sisters I mean out past “ankle deep” (out of sight of the land) – knows the sea is vast.   And it really does not matter whether the vessel taking the mariner out is a sloop, a ketch,  a six-hundred foot Navy cruiser,  a thousand-foot aircraft carrier or nine thousand-passenger and -crew  cruise liner.  At some point, everyone realizes that we are but dots in the ocean.

For poets, scholars, kings, farm boys and  fishermen, the ocean casts a spell beckoning us to it,  and yet the depths and potential hazards have been a metaphor, even among land-lubbers, for danger and despair.  Who today has not heard or used the phrases “in over your head”, “you’re in too deep”, “the deep end”,  or being “out of your depth” to describe discomfort.

I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.   Proverbs 69:2 (NIV)

But getting in over my head was never a reason for me to avoid doing something.  I did  venture to sea, most of the eight years I was crew on 3 Navy ships.   Perhaps it was due to my early introduction to water.   I think I was learning to swim almost at the same time I was learning to walk.  My mother used to tell me how, as a toddler, I would venture off the step in the shallows of the community pool –  and her lightning-quick mother’s arm would shoot out to rein me in as my head went under.  I was a budding Jacques Cousteau.   As a young teen,  I took a class in Lifesaving, in order to become a lifeguard, and the instructor- as I recall it- tried to drown me simulating a panicked swimmer.  I punched him.  Later, in the Navy class on treading water, I never understood how some of my peers had never learned to swim.  I never feared putting my head underwater.  And in my twenties I obtained a SCUBA certification and spent some years going diving.

Still, I have a healthy respect for water whether it is gathered in rivers, large lakes, or the ocean. Perhaps it is due to my experience with lakes that appear deceptively shallow, or water that was particularly frigid on a very warm New England May day.  Or with currents in rivers, in saltwater marshes with an ebbing tide where I tried to navigate a little rowboat across.  And I’ve lost my footing in a shallow beach tidal outflow and been sucked out to the bay.

There is a magical quality to looking out at the sea,  and witnessing the deepening blue hue of the deep ocean, turn gray-blackish and whipped into white foam caps.  When a calm sea could become a violent storm in a matter of hours, there were some, myself included, who offered prayers of thanksgiving to Providence for never having been seasick . On a bright sunny day,  as the weather turns into a full-force gale.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh  / brainyquote.com

In my childhood,  I was fascinated by nautical museums, sea captain’s two hundred year-old homes, touring lighthouses and old ships, steamers, and ferry boats.   And today I am blogging about such things now and again.   At my keyboard now  I remember the first work of fiction I wrote for a college literature class being a blend of all these memories.   And I quite clearly pictured Burgess Meredith as the crusty old Salt protagonist.

Dwellers by the sea are generally superstitious; sailors always are. There is something in the illimitable expanse of sky and water that dilates the imagination. Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Strangely, I never bought a boat after my assignments at sea ended.   While I have been on several since my career in the Navy ended,  I have never wanted to scrape barnacles, chip paint, or clean the salt-corrosion ever again.   But I still know port from starboard, and even on the maritime museum, the MIDWAY at the pier in downtown San Diego, I will still request permission to come aboard.  And I can wish for others a fond  time  getting  “haze gray and underway”.

changes

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time   – David Bowie  Changes

David Bowie was a genius when it came to his music and his showmanship.  He could repackage himself over the years and always be fresh and draw attention.   I think it is time to make some changes to this blog.  I need to have a fresh approach and better content.   When I started this blog,  I was recalling memories of lessons learned, places visited and people who impacted my life over twenty-five years in the Navy, and lately, remarking on current events that were Navy or military-themed.  But what about writing fiction?  A comic strip?  Possibilities.

Recently the company I work for changed its brand identity, and introduced a new logo.  They hired a public relations firm.   I have more than fifty subscribers.  I need your help.  I am looking for feedback on this fresh look for Truths, Half-Truths and Sea Stories.  Like it?  Hate it?  Don’t particularly care?   Let me know.

 

getting back in the game

Finishing races is important, but racing is more important. Dale Earnhardt
https://www.brainyquote.com

In the sports world,  professional athletes sometimes get injured or sick.  For some, surgery for torn ligaments, broken bones or other issues requires an extended absence.  In the MLB, baseball players can be put on the DL (Disabled List).  In the NFL, football players have injury categories including the Injured Reserve (IR) list.   For the guy or gal whose career does not have millions of adoring fans, bright lights and cameras or sponsor endorsements,  she can be hospitalized at the worst time where work or family are concerned.  For compulsive, “Type A” people – and I am a recovering compulsive worker –  time away from the office is being away from my team and from the battle. I certainly felt that way when I had to retire from the Navy eight years ago.   It took years to lose that compulsion to be involved  and to simply enjoy being “retired”.

the home stretch

Many know in the game of baseball,  between the “top” and “bottom” of the seventh inning, is a time for the fans to “stretch”.  And then the game resumes.  For a month of recovery from abdominal surgery,  my work life feels it has had that “stretch”.   While I did not plan to be away so long, after a few weeks at home,  the light housework, cooking, and a few other chores seem preferable to the whole regular job thing.

What am I thinking!

Of course, I have been working almost forty years,  so this is as close to “retirement” as I’ve gotten.  My youngest adult son still questions my work ethic, “are you STILL off work? When are you going back?”, he says.   I remind myself he’s only held a real job for two years.  Forty more to go (unless he eventually learns to save a dollar or two).   As a  Baby Boomer I know taking time off only leaves a bigger headache to return to.  What is time off worth to you?

To get a week at home, a few might trade work for a hospital bed.  Fewer still might trade,  for two weeks away,  surgery, staples, hospital food and daily changing bandages.   Maybe for three weeks, one or two might volunteer for a hospital stay, including an operation; a persistent cough that racked your body with pain each time;  use or not use painkillers which alleviate pain but slow down healing; bedrest,  antibiotics, itching  and requiring help to pack medicated strips into the surgical incisions twice daily to properly heal.

sporting legs, backs, sight, and wind

The last leg.  On the back nine. The finish line is in sight.  A second wind has kicked in.  Athletes want to be in the race.  With apologies to Dale Earnhardt, the sooner restarted the sooner I reach my finish line.

After four weeks,   going back to the “job” is preferable.  A discussion I had with a blogger concluded that suffering is needed for great art, drama, and writing.  Is my blogging getting BORING?  I am not suffering!  Where do I get inspired?  Suffering at work.  I am not used to working like this!

With my return to work,  there’s going to be an adjustment. Others are going to suffer.  Dogs won’t have my company during the day.  Barbecuing and making dinner for my wife coming from work are going to be a weekend-only thing.  Coming off the DL is an adjustment.  Work is going to expect that I will return to my suffering program and knock a homer out of the park.  Perhaps my dogs will be inspired to blog.

 

one man’s junk

“…is another man’s treasures” – see etymology

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Looking over all the random stuff I have collected in my travels years ago in the Navy, I am recalling how much I learned about marketing since those days. For the longest time, I was quite the buyer. Fresh out of bootcamp, I was “accosted” by a photography film and developing service. I think they were out of business before the contract expired.

“you are going to see the world, kid. You need something to take pictures and to develop them. Sign right here…”

It took a while to learn to bargain proficiently – which is how most of the world operates between vendors and customers. I love hunting for bargains today. I am always asking for any discounts, and chatting with anyone and everyone. But many, even today, will not admit they may subscribe to the old saying, “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

Thinking back to my childhood, two of my favorite characters from television or movies who were amazing at marketing (trading goods), was Pat Buttram’s Mr. Haney in the 1960s television comedy, Green Acres, and Don Rickles character, Crapgame, from the movie, Kelly’s Heroes.

Whether knowing the “talk” of a salesman with just about anything you wanted – or didn’t want, and helping me to avoid “being sold” to a guy who could trade up to get what he needed, I know that my experiences in the Navy were invaluable in my later years. If it was a more-comfortable chair for my boss in the Pentagon, I could get one through “appropriation”. Or if some repair work was needed sooner than the bureaucracy allowed, I could barter favors for moving the work order to the top of the “day’s worklist” stack.

But in the early years, particularly when traveling around the world, I was a tenderfoot with a pocketful of cash, so there were life lessons to learn in salesmanship and becoming a prudent shopper. How many of us, Sailor, Soldier, Airman, Marine, or merchantman have walked past a street hawker without looking or at least listening, to the pitch for gold, jewelry, or girlfriend – swag?

“My friend, my friend, I give you good deal!”

There was always a little marketing going on, from trading shipboard things like embroidered military unit patches, engraved Zippo lighters, military ballcaps. Before widely marketed, Levi’s jeans, Nike shoes, and other “Americana” might make good currency. Sometimes, barter involved Marlboro cigarettes, American whiskey, or music CDs. Yes, kids, there was a whole economy going on, before Paypal. Before Amazon. Before the Internet. A long time ago.

I recently found and then misplaced a picture of me and my shipmates sitting in a beachfront cabana somewhere in South America, decked out in Panama hats. Must have been Ecuador. We had encountered a pretty streetwise kid- a New York City kid visiting his uncle there – who was helping Sailors with the local menu and beer prices. I think he made a kickback but we weren’t complaining. Does any American twenty-something really understand the foreign currency conversion to the dollar? After blowing through your money on the first visit, wisdom then seems to show.

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Bulgarian currency circa 1995

And then there are unique buying opportunities. Ecuadorian vendors in Manta presented me with “genuine” Inca figurines. They were clearly cheap copies but the women selling them from a blanket made me feel I had to buy something. At a beach cabana a kid sold me (yes, I bought one) a fishnet hammock.

In Toulon, France, others offered ladies handbags far more reasonable than the Cannes Louis Vuitton storefront (of course cheaper meant a knockoff). I told my shipmate he could have saved $400 and his spouse wouldn’t have known the difference. Yet he bought the real thing. There were replica French (a nicer word than counterfeit) perfumes in Egypt. One sailor was buying these and fancy stopper bottles from other vendors, to resell at home.

Elsewhere there were Turkish carpets, former-Soviet Army medallions and belt buckles, and amber jewelry (in Bulgaria). Leather goods and inlaid gold and metal items in Spain. Jewelry using ancient Greek and Roman coins in Greece. Tailored suits in Sicily. How many visiting sailors bought panini sandwiches from buxom women in waterfront kiosks in Toulon, France? (These women were Italians!). Anyone visiting Toulon at the time knew “smash” sandwiches.

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With the Internet, I imagine these same vendors now have Point-Of-Sale shops, Apple Pay, PayPal and international shipping. Perhaps I too, shall open a little shop. “I give you good deal!”